We Keep Getting Scared by Smaller and Smaller Terrorist Threats – Daily Beast
But, as it turned out—many thousands of lives and trillions of dollars later—no, that wasn’t the case.
We had not gone to war because of what we knew, but because of what we did not know—because of “the unknown unkowns,” in Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld’s memorable phrase. In November 2001, Vice President Dick Cheney announced that if there was “a one percent chance” that a threat might be real “we have to treat it as a certainty in terms of our response.” He added, “It’s not about our analysis, or finding a preponderance of evidence.” The quest for perfect security became the enemy of common sense. Our leaders, including Sen. Hillary Clinton, convinced themselves they could not be sure Saddam had no WMD unless we invaded and occupied the country he ruled.
By the end of 2003, when that occupation already showed signs it was a major disaster and no WMD had been found, the fear of nuclear terrorists still would not die. As The Daily Beast’s Shane Harris reported this weekend, officials in Washington were so worried that al Qaeda somehow had acquired nukes that then-NSA Director Michael Hayden told his British counterpart at GCHQ to be ready in case the NSA was obliterated and the Brits had to pick up the pieces. But, no, al Qaeda did not have nukes either.